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Love (and other uses for duct tape) by Carrie Jones

November 29, 2008

Having very much enjoyed Carrie JonesTips on Having a Gay (Ex) Boyfriend, I had no plans to read Love (and other uses for duct tape) prior to the latter book being nominated for the Cybils this year. I just didn’t want to face the possibility that my enjoyment of Tips would be ruined by whatever might happen in Love. *cough* Charmed Thirds *cough* But while I was pleased that Love did not, in fact, lessen my enjoyment of Tips, I also thought it was not as good a book as Tips.

It’s now May of Belle’s senior year of high school. She’s still dating Tom, still best friends with Em (who’s still dating Shawn), still friendly with Dylan (who’s still dating Bob). But she wants more. With Tom, at least. She wants to have sex with Tom. She loves him, he turns her on, and if she had sex with her gay ex-boyfriend, why isn’t she having sex with her decidedly straight new guy? Plus Belle, who’s epileptic, has an unexplained seizure, which she worries will affect Tom’s feelings toward her, and must help Em deal with unexpected news.

I liked that Belle has sexual desires and wants to have sex with her boyfriend and that it’s presented so naturally. For this alone, I would recommend this book. But there were times I felt like Belle was confusing Tom’s willingness (or lack thereof) to have sex with her with his love for her, in a “We’re not having sex, so he must not love me” kind of way. I also found it annoying that, for most of the book, every time Belle referred to Dylan, it was in conjunction with the “gay ex-boyfriend” label. People who’ve read Tips know that already, and folks who haven’t read Tips don’t need to be told that Dylan is her gay ex-boyfriend every time he’s mentioned. Once or twice would have been just fine.

So why don’t I think Love is as good as Tips? Good question! Ultimately, I guess it was the accumulation of minor things, like the above complaints, which, individually, I do consider to be pretty minor. I think fans of Tips will also enjoy Love, and it stands alone well enough for people who haven’t read Tips. But Love never seemed to move beyond Tips, by which I mean it never distinguished itself from Tips. I’m sure this will make it even more enjoyable to some readers, and I kind of feel that this bothers me a lot more than it will bother teens. Who, after all, are the actual audience for this book. Love retains the same compressed time frame (everything takes place in less than a week), and the chemistry between Belle and Tom, and the small town atmosphere, and basically everything else that made Tips so enjoyable. But for me, it also made things a little stale this time around. This time, it seemed like there was too much going on in too little time. This time, things were perhaps a little too familiar. So maybe it’s not exactly that Love isn’t as good as Tips, but that it never created an identity of its own to separate itself in my mind from Tips. And since Tips is the book I read first, it’s the book I have stronger feelings toward.

This book is a Cybils YA Fiction nominee and was also reviewed by Becky.

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